Saturday, August 27, 2005

Rising Gas Prices. Yup.

A while back I had a good conversation with a dear friend. Politically he and I are about as far apart as they come; he's a staunch conservative and I am a bleeding-heart liberal. But he's a good chess player, makes a mean salsa, and we've been friends at least 20 years.

Anyway, he praised me on my choice to go solar and stated that he'd like to do the same when he decides to buy a home. My reasons for solar power were mostly environmental but the financial incentives are great too ($2.18 for my electric bill last month! Did I mention that lately?) But his reasons? Support of alternative energy technologies will eventually reduce our dependency on foreign oil. He felt very strongly that we can't bemoan the policies of other govenments and decry their support of terrorist elements one minute, while giving them lots of money for oil the next.

He's absolutely right. The best way to go about reducing our dependence on oil would be to require more fuel-efficient cars. Fareed Zakaria, in Newsweek:

If American cars averaged 40 miles per gallon, we would soon reduce consumption by 2 million to 3 million barrels of oil a day. That could translate into a sustained price drop of more than $20 a barrel. And getting cars to be that efficient is easy. For the most powerful study that explains how, read "Winning the Oil Endgame" by energy expert Amory Lovins (or go to I would start by raising fuel-efficiency standards, providing incentives for hybrids and making gasoline somewhat more expensive (yes, that means raising taxes). Of course, the energy bill recently passed by Congress does none of these things.
We don't need a Manhattan Project to find our way out of our current energy trap. The technologies already exist. But what we're searching for is perhaps even harder—political leadership and vision.

There's a serious lack of political leadership and vision in Washington right about now.

I keep reading stories about rising gas prices and the effect on individuals as well as our country as a whole. It will raise some prices, and that may hurt. But the folks complaining that it costs $100 to fill the Hummer? Good, I hope it hurts. You bought it, buddy, you pay for it. Gas prices adjusted for inflation are still nowhere near where they were 25 years ago. And remember that a portion of that cost goes to support countries whose governments and policies you dislike.

My solar panels probably only reduce our dependency on foreign oil a very small bit, in ways such as I bought a rechargeable electric lawnmower instead of a gas one. It's mostly reduced our dependency on dirty-burning coal used to produce electricity in Our Fair State. Our last car purchase, however, was a very small one, and our next one will be a hybrid, or the most fuel-efficient technology available at the time. We will continue to try to reduce our family's dependence on oil as much as possible while continuing to utilize alternative energy sources as available. My friend has a good point; it's great that we can come to the same conclusion, especially since we came from very different starting points.

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